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A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant

Apr 08, 2010

Dental assistants are trained in a wide variety of areas in order to assist dentists and dental hygienists while they work with patients.

The types of tasks a dental assistant performs depend on:

  • The regulations for dental assistants in that state
  • The type of dental facility they are employed at
  • The procedures the dental office is set up to perform

During a typical day, a dental assistant will be expected to sterilize instruments and set up the instrument trays for each patient room. This ensures that the dentist has all the instruments he or she requires on hand when he or she is working with the patient. 

The dental assistant will likely accompany the dental hygienist and the dentist while they work on a patient, and assist by handing them any tools or materials they require. In some dental offices the dental assistant will also be permitted to administer a local anesthetic to the patient, and will stay with them throughout the procedure to monitor vital signs.

While the dental assistant is with the patient they will help them feel comfortable, they may also help by explaining the procedure that will be performed during the visit, answering questions, or even just adjusting the chair so they feel more at ease.

Additional functions

These will depend on licensing regulations in the state where they are employed. In some areas dental assistants are permitted to perform X-rays, and take castings for caps or bridges. They may also follow up with patients that have had root canals or other major procedures to see how they are recovering, and whether there are any side effects.

In smaller offices, the dental assistant may have other administrative roles. They may be responsible for scheduling appointments, greeting patients, submitting claims to the insurance company, and ordering supplies. Usually in larger offices these tasks are handled by an administrative assistant or office manager, but in smaller offices where there may not be enough work for a full-time dental assistant, these additional roles help to fill the gap.

Continuous learning

Periodically, a dental assistant may be asked to attend workshops or training sessions to learn about new trends and technologies in the dental industry. These sessions can be local, regional, or may require that you travel to another city. The more training and education a dental assistant receives, the more valuable of an employee they will become.

Multitasking is key

Many dental assistants choose to pursue careers as dental hygienists, which requires a few more years of training. By working as a dental assistant while attending school, you can defer the costs of being a dental hygienist instead of having to take out loans or go into debt. After becoming a dental hygienist many then decide to pursue a career in dentistry.

Job opportunities

Dental assistants earn a reasonable salary, and many employers also offer benefits and paid vacation. While many dental assistants learn what they need to know on the job, those who want to become dental assistants will find that the job hunt is easier when you have some training. With the expected growth in this field, there will soon be a significant increase in demand for qualified dental assistants, so now is a great time to consider training for this career.

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